Take It from a WSBA Volunteer: A Q&A with Michele Carney

A diverse group of legal volunteers.

All this week, the WSBA is joining others around the country during National Volunteer Week to recognize and celebrate the many invaluable volunteers who devote their time and expertise to carry out the WSBA mission of serving the public, ensuring the integrity of the legal profession, and championing justice.

National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to honor the impact of all those who do good in our communities, and inspire others to make a difference and improve the world. So every day this week, NWSidebar will publish new interviews with a few of our outstanding volunteers.

For questions about volunteering with WSBA, please contact Volunteer Engagement Advisor, Paris Eriksen at parise@wsba.org.

What has been your proudest moment or favorite memory so far as a WSBA volunteer?

I have been honored to be part of a team of incredible volunteers on the Practice of Law Board. We have collaborated as a group to try and figure out innovative solutions for increased access to legal services for Washington state. When I started on the board, the past executive director, Paula Littlewood, would frequently attend our meetings. She left an imprint on all of us. She used to say wisely, “It is not where the hockey puck is now, but where it is going.” She used this analogy to our group for us to think about how we can help develop increased avenues for legal services for what is needed in the future. In other words, how can we anticipate how legal services will be accessed in the future and respond in advance to that? I love the “blue sky” creative possibilities of this group.

Did you have any misconceptions about volunteering before you began this role and have they changed?

I was worried about some of the politics that I had read about. However, as a group we have focused on our tasks as outlined by the Washington Supreme Court and tried to move forward with solutions. When working as a volunteer, it is important to be respectful of differing opinions and try to incorporate differences in order to move forward as a group. Luckily, the Practice of Law Board has been a collaborative one. While progress can seem slow, each small step leads to new ideas and possibilities.

What have you learned that you might not have if you had not volunteered? Has it changed your approach to practicing law?

I have met interesting people—both lawyers and members of the public who bring a wealth of diversity to the committee. This board has opened my eyes to the possibilities for legal innovation and what can be accomplished. In terms of the approach to practicing law, I believe that there are many levels of legal professionals and, when we act as a team, the public can be served.

I have also volunteered on other boards as well. I was chair of the Disciplinary Board and very much enjoyed my time there. It was interesting to learn more about the discipline process and gain understanding of how cases are adjudicated. Over the years, I have developed a keen interest in both ethics and legal innovation through technology. My time on the Disciplinary Board was invaluable for the knowledge gained about the mechanics of the discipline process.

What have you found most inspiring among your fellow WSBA volunteers?

I have found the respect, collaboration, and humanity the most inspiring in my fellow WSBA volunteers. This is my last year on the Practice of Law Board and I will miss my fellow volunteers. But change is both necessary and important for keeping the board fresh with new volunteers who can bring in different perspectives.

Most of us practice in one area. For me, it is primarily immigration law. By volunteering at the WSBA it is a chance to meet interesting people who may have different backgrounds. Being on the Disciplinary Board allowed me to further pursue my interest in legal ethics. In addition, being on the Practice of Law Board has opened my eyes to the real need for increased affordable pathways to legal services for Washington state. I have cherished my time as a volunteer and am glad that I can give back some time to an organization that has given so much to its members over the years.